SITLA’s Dirty Energy Hurts Schoolkids

UTSR gains first free expression permit of 2018.

As our first action of the new year we will attend SITLA’s monthly meeting at 9 am thursday january 4  and then we will have our free expression event with banners and protest tents at the SITLA retreat located at the Falls event center at 600 east and 600 south from 12-3:30. We will be setting up at 11 am.

Salt lake City provides this document with interesting information about free speech.

Free Expression Definitions – SLC Free Expression Activity Permit Application
QUICK REFERENCE: First Amendment
Public Safety
Expressive Conduct
Fighting Words
Risk of Violence
1. The First Amendment’s guarantee of the right of free expression is a fundamental element of our democratic system of government. However, that right of free expression is not absolute. Some kinds of speech, such as obscenity, defamation, and fighting words, are not protected by the First Amendment. In addition, to further significant governmental interests, the government may regulate the time, place, and manner of the exercise of protected speech rights. An example of a “time” regulation is an ordinance banning loud noises in residential areas
during the night. An example of a “place” regulation is a requirement that parades not be held on certain busy streets. An example of a “manner” regulation is a restriction on the size of signs carried by picketers. The government cannot impose speech restrictions simply because it disagrees with the message of the speaker. In other words, government regulation of speech must be “content neutral.”
Furthermore, a time, place, or manner regulation must advance a significant
governmental interest, not restrict more speech than necessary to further that interest, and leave speakers with an ample alternative means to express them.

2. The City has a significant and compelling interest in maintaining the safety of people on streets and sidewalks. That interest sometimes justifies restrictions on speech rights. For example, the City can pass laws making it illegal to stand in the middle of the street, or to block pedestrians on sidewalks. Those laws are valid, even when enforced against a person who wants to speak in that street or on that sidewalk. The City may also establish temporary regulations for a specific event to address the particular public safety concerns related to that event. For example, a particular event may generate much heavier pedestrian traffic than normal. Furthermore, the police have a duty to protect people exercising their free speech rights from violence aimed at them by a hostile audience.

3. Protected expression is not limited to the spoken or written word. People may communicate a message through expressive conduct, such as wearing an armband, or burning the United States flag, a draft card, or an effigy. A person’s conduct is expressive if he or she intends to convey a particularized message, and
if it is very likely that people viewing the conduct will understand the message. Any
government attempt to restrict such expressive conduct must be unrelated to the suppression of free speech. For example, the government could validly pass a law making it illegal to burn anything (including the American flag) in a particular place due to the fire hazard. Such a law is not aimed at speech, but rather at public safety. On the other hand, the government cannot validly ban the burning of the flag simply because it believes that burning the flag is unpatriotic. Based on those principles, courts have held that many instances of expressive conduct were
protected, even though the conduct ridiculed government or religious leaders, religious beliefs, or otherwise seriously offended many people.

4. As noted above, “fighting words” are not protected by the First Amendment, so the government can treat them as disorderly conduct or a breach of the peace. Fighting words are defined as personal insults: (1) directed at a particular person or small group of people, (2) inherently likely to create a violent reaction, and (3) that play no role in the expression of ideas. It is not enough that the words are very insulting or highly offensive or arouse some people to anger. Also, words are not fighting words if they are spoken to a crowd. Listeners are expected to turn their heads and ignore such speech. Whether particular speech constitutes fighting words depends on the circumstances of the situation. However, even when speech is extremely annoying or offensive to listeners, courts have been very tolerant and protective of such speech. In one case, a door-to-door missionary played for two men a recording that attacked the men’s religion. The men became incensed
and were tempted to strike the missionary. The United States Supreme Court held that the missionary’s speech (the recording) was not fighting words. Expressive conduct is also subject to the fighting words analysis. As with traditional speech,
however, courts are very protective of such symbolic speech. For example, the United States Supreme Court held that a law was unconstitutional that made it illegal to “desecrate a venerated object” such as a flag, if the desecrator knew it would seriously offend observers. The court overturned the conviction of a man who burned an American flag in protest. Similarly, courts have held that the display, ridicule, and even burning of effigies of public figures do not amount to fighting words. However, there are limits. In a recent case a group of protesters formed a semicircle around a woman and for six minutes shouted at her that she was “a whore, harlot, and Jezebel.” A court held that those were fighting words under the circumstances. Notably, the words were directed specifically at the woman.

5. Speakers in a speech event have a constitutional right not to have their message interfered with by other speakers. A physical intrusion is such an unconstitutional interference. For example, the sponsor of a private parade cannot be forced to allow in the parade a float that communicates a message with which the sponsors disagree. Also, if a group reserved public space for a silent candlelight vigil, it would be improper for the government to grant a rock band a permit to hold a concert right next to the vigil. Such interference could also include stalking a speaker in an intimidating way or trying to block his sign with an even larger sign. Depending on the location and the circumstances, heckling or shouting down of a speaker may constitute an infringement on that speaker’s free speech rights. The government is justified in restricting speech aimed at unwilling listeners if the listeners are a “captive audience,” meaning they cannot conveniently avoid the speech by turning their heads or walking away. Under this principle, courts have upheld laws requiring protesters to keep their volume down near hospitals, courthouses, and private residences, in order not to disturb people in those private places. Courts have also upheld bans on demonstrators entering into churches without consent, but courts generally have not upheld efforts to prohibit protesters from demonstrating on the sidewalk in front of places of worship (except to the
extent protesters block access to the church or their noise penetrates into the church).

6. The United States Supreme Court has said of the risk of violence: “A function of free speech . . . is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with the conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging.”
It is true that listeners sometimes dislike the message of a speaker, lose their temper, and become violent. However, in such situations the speakers retain their constitutional right to speak (short of “fighting words”), and it is the duty of the police to protect the speakers and deal with the violent listeners. Courts reject a “heckler’s veto” that would silence a speaker because of a hostile audience reaction. On rare occasions, the government may have such an expectation of violence that it will impose additional restrictions on how or where speech can occur. For example, if two groups with strongly opposing viewpoints that have a history of violence intend to hold rallies next to each other, the police may require them to remain a safe distance apart to reduce the risk of violence. Similarly, if members of a group have a history of blocking access and/or engaging in physical violence while exercising their free speech rights, restrictions such as “buffer zones” may be appropriate.


Resisters and High School students attend SITLA board meeting

A group of concerned persons attended the monthly SITLA board meeting to speak during the public comment period. Here are some videos of folks speaking at the  meeting in November.


Four high school students came to speak and ask questions of the Board of Trustees at the monthly meeting of the Schools and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) in Salt Lake City.

Students address SITLA board of trustees

Here is a clip of some High School students in Salt Lake city who took the time to attend this public meeting and ask some questions of the SITLA board of trustees. These students are beneficiaries of the trust. Listen to the board responses.

Posted by Utah Tar Sands Resistance on Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The students asked the board about climate change and the effects for future generations.

Another student asked about SITLA”s role in causing air pollution.

The board was aloof and somewhat condescending to the well informed students who are the beneficiaries of the school lands trust.

The students were from West High School, Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, Highland High School and The Academy for Math Engineering and Science.

Utah Tar Sands Resistance had 2 speakers and other people of all ages spoke.

SITLA is entrusted with leasing and developing state trust lands for the benefit of primarily the K-12 public education system in Utah. SITLA is constitutionally mandated to generate revenue from trust lands to build and grow permanent endowments for the beneficiaries.

The seven member un-elected board with no direct public accountability and ties to either fossil fuel interests or real estate development are responsible for the management of leases to these trust lands.

The public has many concerns about SITLA. These include individual trustees conflict of interest which can (or has) led to decisions which may benefit board members or their colleagues. Secondly, SITLA’s policy promoting oil shale and tar sand strip-mining has failed. While millions of dollars have been spent, not one barrel of oil has been realized and pristine lands, most of which are within the Uncompahgre reservation boundaries, have been devastated.  Recent failed or failing projects include: US Oil Sands, Red Leaf Resources , Enefit Energy, and MCW Energy (now called Petroteq). Everyone of these projects is unprofitable, un-reclaimed, harmed land, bankruptcies, busted communities have been the legacy so far.

Lonnie Bullard insults his critics and the beneficiaries. Gee …

Later in the meeting after the public comment period ends and the students leave, to return to class I presume, Board member Lonnie Bullard the SITLA board vice chair takes the floor to insult the students and the rest of us who remained.

Posted by Utah Tar Sands Resistance on Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mr. Lonnie Bullard a member of the SITLA board of trustees takes time during the monthly meeting to insult the students, who are the beneficiaries of the trust, and the other folks who spoke.  Some of the students who spoke were not even offered chairs in the mostly full room. They were attending the meeting at 9 am likely missing some school classes, to speak during the 10 min public comment period which occurs at the beginning of the 2-3 hour meeting. Mr Bullard insulted the students for leaving before the meeting ended. I pointed out that the students likely had to return to high school. He also criticizes “people who choose to spend the time in tents and on lines” for wanting a magic wand. UTSR did in fact participate in the governors clean energy alliance by suggesting that Utah take tar sands and oil shale development OFF the governors energy plan. Needless to say this proposal was not accepted.

The Protest Must Go On!


We were shocked to see that our free speech banners we put up last week were stolen from the public right of way in front of the nasty tar factory being constructed at PR Springs Utah.  The banner “No pipelines! No Stripmines! Utah Land Defenders support Standing Rock and Red Warrior Camp was stolen along with “stripmines Trash Everything”


In an effort to keep up the fight and our spirits we put up more banners.


Saturday September 24th at PR Springs Utah

A new banner was placed at Children’s Legacy Overlook near the southern edge of the freshly stripped forest known affectionately as the “Children’s Legacy Camp”  UTSR decided to move our vigil to this overlook near the road as the weather is changing and it is preferable to have a more sunny location.  Around 5pm on saturday  about 1 hour after we arrived and began to set up our tents an unmarked vehicle pulled in (which I had seen on the ridge parked, where you can look at our camp in PR Canyon with binoculars, several times since Friday afternoon) and identifying one of us by name said this nonsense:

“Your XXX right?” You can’t be here I know that you know that this is trust lands because you have been arrested here before.”

UTSR: “Who are You?”

The man said “I am Jason Christensen, I am an investigator for the Uintah county prosecutor”

UTSR: “So why are you talking to us?”

Jason: “I am a peace officer, I have no authority in Grand County but I am doing my personal duty.”

UTSR: “Personal duty? What is a personal duty?”

Jason; “you don’t have personal time?”

UTSR: “your up here on your personal time?”

Jason: “I’m not going to argue with you I’m calling the Grand County Sheriff!”

He does I listen (LOL) we are not actually trespassing.

Jason “i’ve got pictures of you”

He drives to the county line 500 feet away and parks where he can watch us. A fully camo dressed man with a covered face drives by on a 4 wheeler pulls over and says “whats going on?” we say “we are protesting the strip mine” and he says “did we drive there?”  “No we are on bikes!” he says but did you drive here?” we say “do you see a car?” There is none  LOL!!! This makes him mad. He leaves and goes to hang out with Jason. I deem him a “Cop Sucker”

We gather up wood, make a big fire and enjoy an amazing sunset across the stripped land. Another unmarked police vehicle drives by from the Uintah county side and takes more pics with a long lens. He turns around after awhile and comes back towards us he swerves and covers his face to avoid being photographed by us.

No one ever shows up from Grand County. We make sure to stay up late and flash our lights on the mine pit so the Uintah co cops have something to do. They keep watch till well after dark.

On Sunday morning , a bike ride over to the Pig Pen ( a fenced in trailer for the cops to sleep in, Uintah county built onto the side of the US Oil Sands tar processing plant fence line), reveals that the Uintah Cops have gone home to Vernal. The new banner and protest camp can be seen from Seep Ridge Road and many folks drive by who are here hunting and recreating in this remote wilderness.

Many tears have been shed over the loss of  Children’s Legacy Camp and its thriving ecosystem. We will continue to witness and grieve for every leaf of every tree, every single fly, spider, mouse and bear and everything in between we will speak of them, and think of them and honor them, as the precious beings that we know they are. Our banners and protest continue to exist.


Formal Complaint and Request for Action Against MCW Energy Group


I submitted this complaint to the following agencies yesterday afternoon.

Utah Division of Air Quality, Utah Division of Water Quality, Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and Utah DOGM Minerals Regulatory Program.

I will post an update when I get some responses.


This letter is a formal complaint and request for action by Raphael Cordray, personally, and behalf, Utah tar Sands Resistance (UTSR).

This complaint alleges that MCW Energy is operating a tar sands processing plant near Vernal in violation of State and Federal environmental laws and regulations. MCW Energy is performing unlawful activity by building and operating a tar processing facility without environmental permits.

My search of public records reveals that no current permits are existing as required by law and for public safety. This Tar Processing facility is adjacent a residential area putting homes and families at risk.

MCW has no Air pollution control permit.

MCW has no Storm Water discharge permit

MCW has no NPDES Process Water discharge permit

MCW has no permit for RCRA Waste Streams yet appears to create RCRA waste streams

There are chemicals and processes on site that require permitting and regulation yet the MCW facilities and tar processing operations are currently unpermitted and unregulated.

MCW stands to gain a huge financial benefit from this illegal activity by placing human health and the environment at risk.  MCW is defrauding investors by making numerous false claims on their website.

MCW has used public leaders including, Kevin Van Tassel and Governor Herbert to create an illusion of legitimacy for this illegal project.

I am aware that a Right Of Entry (ROE) permit 6166 was issued to MCW on February 2nd by SITLA.  I also reviewed the related “Final Agency Action” letter from Kevin Carter of SITLA to MCW dated Nov. 17 2015.

ROE 6166 executed contract

I am concerned about the content of the ROE.  The ROE claims to authorize the dumping of process water by MCW tar processing facility in unlined pits on the site.  Where is the public process and proper environmental impact research in an ROE?  A tar sands factory needs more than an ROE to operate yet state of Utah records indicate that MCW has been operating illegally on this site for years.

The ROE permit 6166 states:

“SITLA authorizes and approves Permittee’s use, storage and disposal of Produced Water on the Permitted Property.”

SITLA does not regulate produced water. How & Why are they “authorizing” it?

We request that you take immediate action and close this illegal operation.  We demand that the environmental impacts to our air, water and the land from this toxic experiment be disclosed and addressed. We formally request that  ALL relevant laws and rules be effectively applied and enforced to this project.

Please contact me if you need any further information.

I look forward to your responses.


Raphael Cordray, personally and for,

Utah Tar Sands Resistance

US Oil Sands announces slow down and lack of funding! USOS STOCKS plummet!

PR Springs mine may NEVER open.

Utah Tar Sands Resistance is hopeful about the real impact of the recent announcement by US Oil Sands of the scale down of their plans for tar sands strip mining at PR Springs Utah. All beings will continue to gain from the existence of this remote ecosystem and the preservation of this historic source of spring water.

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news links about USOS slow down:

US Oil Sands slows Utah project, Salt Lake Tribune

US Oil Sands slows $60-million Utah project as prices tank, contractors close

article US Oil Sands announces decision to slow construction at PR Springs mine Moab Sun Times.

We’ve Moved Our Vigil to SITLA!

BREAKING: Utah Tar Sands Resistance has moved our protest vigil to SITLA, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, located in downtown Salt Lake City!


That’s right, we rolled in with our water barrels, tents, and banners, and set up shop at high noon today.

Join us if you can. Bring food or coffee, and it will be a party.





SITLA's dirty work banner

Read the press release:

Utah Tar Sands Resistance
Stages 24-Hour Vigil on Lawn of SITLA

October 21, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: On October 21 at noon, members of Utah Tar Sands Resistance and supporters launched a 24-hour vigil in front of SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) in Salt Lake City. This summer and fall, beginning in mid-May, they have been holding an ongoing protest encampment in the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah, at the site where US Oil Sands is attempting to start the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. Now, they have brought their protest to the front doors of the agency responsible for leasing the lands, SITLA, located at 500 S/700 E, Salt Lake City.

The group chose to launch their vigil the day before SITLA’s next board meeting, which will take place at 9 a.m. on October 22. SITLA’s board is stacked with developers chosen by the governor, and its decisions to lease land for the world’s dirtiest energy sources—like tar sands and oil shale—stand in stark contrast to its mandate to never sacrifice short-term gains for the long-term wellbeing of Utah’s children.

In reality, SITLA contributes just 1–2% of the public schools’ budget. What do SITLA’s choices actually give the residents of Utah? The high rate of infant mortality in the Uintah Basin and the red air days in the Salt Lake Valley during which children and pregnant women are told to stay indoors, for starters. Human health will be jeopardized even more if the world’s dirtiest projects are allowed to take root in Utah. Along with decimated ecosystems, dwindling watersheds, and climate chaos, these realities show that SITLA’s choices are giving our children a toxic and frightening future, leaving them to cope with previous generations’ mistakes.

Jill Merritt, a mother of four and a grandmother, says, “SITLA’s choices put my grandchildren and future generations in grave danger, leaving them with a world torn apart by climate chaos, poisoned rivers, and toxic air. We call on SITLA to immediately rescind their leases for tar sands and oil shale, and start focusing on the long-term wellbeing of our children.”

Utah Tar Sands Resistance encourages all concerned members of the public to join them in standing up for a livable future. Their vigil is a family-friendly environment that they hope will serve as a public forum in which people can discuss their concerns about the management of public lands and resources. They will be recording stories on the site for a video project on this issue, and they invite kids, parents, and other members of the public to come share about their concerns for the environment and their love of Utah’s public lands.

Utah Children say, “Oil Shale Puts Our Future on the Line.”

The weekend of June 20th, 2014, an intergenerational gathering brought together children, guardians, teachers and land defenders at PR Springs, site of the nation’s first commercial fuel tar sands strip mine, located in Eastern Utah. In addition to tar sands mining, the region is being threatened by oil shale strip mining, and after a weekend of hiking and exploring the land, fun art and science projects, and discussions with their peers, the children decided to take a field strip to Red Leaf Resources test site in order to see what was going on there, and to deliver a message.

Dear CEOs and Workers of Red Leaf Resources,

We are the children of Utah. We stand here today with our teachers, parents, and peers.

We are concerned about SITLA‘s dirty energy leasing for strip mining. Oil shale mining, and tar sands, destroys water, forests, and air, increases cancer and asthma risks, and these things take away animal homes that will never be the same.

SITLA funds 2% of the total school budget. We must think of the long term risks.

Is it really worth it to put children’s and animals’ lives in danger for strip mining?

Here in these places, they are destroying beautiful land, where it’s peaceful for wildlife and for people to enjoy and see.

The next time you’re planning to hurt an ecosystem, think of the animals and people you’re hurting and killing.

Thank you,
The Children of Utah


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Read more about last year’s family gathering:
The Road to Hell is Paved with Tar Sands
Utah children visit PR Springs & speak out against tar sands
Families Camp Out in Protest to Save the Tavaputs Plateau from America’s First Approved Commercial Tar Sands Operation
Utah Tar Sands: Will The U.S. Join Canada In Tapping The ‘Bottom Of The Barrel’?

Read more about SITLA:
Lots for Tots: How one agency is selling off Utah in the name of the children